Harrowing footage emerged early Monday showing an apartment building in Turkey collapsing into a pile of rubble, sending terrified people running for their lives, during a monster magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit central Turkey and northwest Syria.
More than 1,700 people were killed and thousands were injured in the natural disaster that knocked down apartment blocks in Turkey and devastated cities in Syria that were already heavily damaged by years of war.
Dramatic footage that was recorded in the daytime hours in the city of Sanliurfa in southeastern Turkey shows a seven-story building coming down as a result of the powerful tremors.
In the recording, curious bystanders initially gaze at the red-and-yellow building as it starts to shake. Moments later, the entire edifice crashes down, sending debris and billowing clouds of thick dust into the street, and prompting onlookers to flee on foot, in cars or on scooters.
The quake, the worst to strike Turkey this century, shook parts of the country in the early morning local time and was felt as far away as Cyprus and Lebanon. It was followed by another 7.7-magnitude temblor in the afternoon hours.
It was not immediately clear how much damage had been done by the second quake, also felt across the region as rescue workers were struggling to pull casualties from rubble in bitterly cold weather.
“We were shaken like a cradle. There were nine of us at home. Two sons of mine are still in the rubble, I’m waiting for them,” said a woman with a broken arm and injuries to her face, speaking in an ambulance near the wreckage of a seven-story block where she had lived in Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey.
The death toll in Turkey has reached at least 1,014, with some 2,824 buildings destroyed, the head of the disaster and emergencies management agency (AFAD) Yunus Sezer said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that it expected a significant jump in the death toll considering the high number of apartment buildings that collapsed.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he could not predict how much the death toll would rise as search and rescue efforts continued.
“Everyone is putting their heart and soul into efforts although winter season, cold weather and the earthquake happening during the night makes things more difficult,” he said.
Erdogan added that 45 countries had already offered help with life-saving efforts, including Germany, Israel, war-torn Ukraine and Russia.
The US was “profoundly concerned” about the quake and was monitoring events closely, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Twitter. “We stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance,” he said.
In Syria, already wrecked by more than 11 years of civil war, the health ministry said more than 430 people had been killed and 1,042 injured. In the Syrian rebel-held northwest, rescuers said 255 people had died.
In the rebel-held city of Azaz, video recorded by Reuters showed a rescuer carrying a toddler in blood-stained clothing from the rubble of a building.
In Diyarbakir, Reuters journalists saw dozens of rescue workers searching through a mound of debris, all that was left of a big building, hauling off bits of wreckage as they looked for survivors. Occasionally they raised their hands and called for quiet, listening for sounds of life.
Men carried a girl wrapped in blankets from a collapsed building in the city.
“We woke up to a big noise and severe shaking. There were two aftershocks right after that,” said Meryem, 29, from the southeastern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter.
“I was so scared, thought it will never stop. I took some things for my one-year old son and left the building.”
Footage circulated on Twitter showed two neighboring buildings collapsing one after the other in Syria’s Aleppo, filling the street with dust. Two residents of the city, which has been heavily damaged in the war, said the buildings had fallen in the hours after the quake.
In the Syrian rebel-held town of Jandaris in Aleppo province, a mound of concrete, steel rods and bundles of clothes lay where a multi-story building once stood.
“There were 12 families under there. Not a single one came out. Not one,” said a thin young man, his eyes wide open in shock and his hand bandaged.
Photos taken in Jandaris showed a bloodied man and a young girl being carried to safety by good Samaritans.
Raed Fares, of the Syrian White Helmets, a rescue service known for pulling people from the ruins of buildings destroyed by air strikes in the rebel-held territory, said they were in “a race against time to save the lives of those under the rubble.”
Abdul Salam al Mahmoud, a Syrian in the town of Atareb, said it felt “like the apocalypse.”
Syrian state television showed footage of rescue teams searching for survivors in heavy rain and sleet. President Bashar al-Assad held an emergency cabinet meeting to review the damage and discuss the next steps, his office said.
Israel said that it had received a Syrian request for assistance with earthquake relief and that it was prepared to help, in what would be rare cooperation between the enemy neighbors.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech he had ordered Israeli aid sent to Turkey, and that “since a request was also received to do this for many victims of the earthquake in Syria, I instructed to do this as well”.
People in Damascus and in the Lebanese cities of Beirut and Tripoli ran into the street and took to their cars to get away from their buildings in fear of collapses, witnesses said.
Footage on broadcaster CNNTurk showed the historic Gaziantep Castle was severely damaged.
It was Turkey’s most severe quake since 1999, when one of similar magnitude devastated Izmit and the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, killing more than 17,000.
With Post wires